It’s difficult to encapsulate how vital Spitboy were during the early days of East Bay punk. The mixed-race all-female hardcore band were a caustic counterpoint to the largely male-dominated underground scene, but also distanced themselves from the riot-grrrl movement that was taking off at the time. With unflinching lyrics tackling gender norms, reproductive rights, racism, capitalism, the government, and any other bullshit that serves the patriarchy, Spitboy didn’t bring baggage. They brought ammunition.  

“I remember in band practice, Adrienne [Droogas] was saying she was writing a song about being scared of walking by herself at night”, drummer Michelle Gonzales says. “And then after the song, ‘Seriously’— that song is about being sexually harassed at a party— I wrote a song, ‘Motivated by Fear.’ That was like, maybe our third song, third or fourth song. Then Karin had “Written Right,” which was about abortion. We all— as women— we all had our own particular feminist concerns, and so we would write songs based on those particular feminist concerns.”  

Like many of their peers, Spitboy’s music could only be found scattered among random compilations, singles, and EPs. But now, all 26 of their recorded songs can be found remastered and reissued under the album, Body of Work, released on June 25 via Don Giovanni Records. The idea for a reissue had been tossed around for years, but took a while to gain traction.  

“Even though Spitboy, as an active band, was only four members, there are five members of Spitboy,” Gonzalez says. “We had two bass players— Paula [Hibbs-Rines] was our original bass player. And then, when she left the band, Dominic [Davison] joined. And so, we consider ourselves five members now. But we work by consensus, and five middle-aged women with lots of ideas working by consensus— it can be slow going!” 

They would tour relentlessly during the few years they were an active band. But for Spitboy, the Gilman Street project will always be sacred ground.  

“The Gilman punk scene was a very safe space, and I have no shame about any of the stereotypes about it or anything,” Gonzales says. “I really felt that as a young woman in my twenties, it was a place that I could go to and feel relatively safe. We didn’t like playing house parties on tour, because there was always the really drunk guy that would show up, or the little pod of drunk dudes that would show up. And it was at one of those parties that we were told to spread our legs or play. It’s one of my favorite chapters, because it really illustrates the reason why we prefer to play all ages shows, and why we prefer to play shows without alcohol.” 

“Unsanctioned shows are rad and hella punk. But for women, they’re fucking way more dangerous! Way more dangerous. There’s a lot more potential for stupidity and violence to happen, or just for us to be humiliated— which we were!” 

In 2016, Gonzales published Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band, mere months before the Trump administration began to loom its shadow over everything the band had fought for. It was around this time the conversation about the band’s legacy began in earnest.  

Spitboy

“I was writing Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band, and it became very clear to me that I had to preserve the Spitboy legacy,” she says. “If we didn’t do it ourselves, we were going to fade away or we were going to be subsumed by the umbrella that is riot-grrrl- which always happened to us.”  

When attempting to articulate something as nebulous as who you are, it is always helpful to start with what you are not. Gonzales elaborates that Spitboy was not a riot-grrrl band by design. 

“Some people thought we hated men,” she says. “We didn’t hate men, you know? And some of our issues we had with riot-grrrl had to do with that. I remember we had those talks as a band— separatism has a place! But it’s not our stance. We’re in a scene that was male-dominated, and we were very influenced by that. But we were also cohorts with other musicians who were men and were also our friends. But for me, the riot grrrl thing… every time I’m interviewed about this, I always say it’s brilliant! I actually think it is so rad. But it wouldn’t feel genuine to me. It’s not my stance! I think it’s rad, I think it makes an amazing statement, but it makes me feel icky.” 

Gonzales reflects on her own relationship with riot-grrrl.  

“For me, as a person of color, it just felt a little bit back-of-the-bus,” she says. “I get that it’s not the same power dynamic, it totally isn’t. But it just made me feel bad. As Audre Lorde would say, ‘The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.’” 

With 100% of proceeds going to the National Women’s Law center, the band hopes Body of Work will inspire new generations to keep fighting for what could be a better world on the other side.  

“We have a friend who grew up with us at that time,” bassist Paula Hibbs-Rines says. “And he has a daughter who is helping to run most of Gilman. She’s a big lead in this whole project now. So, the next generation, it’s really good to see. It’s still alive! Tim Yohannan would be proud of us. He always said ‘don’t sit on the fence. Take a side. Have an opinion.’” 

“Yeah, that was something I learned in the early days of Spitboy,” she continues. “I remember somebody I respected came up to me and said, ‘Stop playing the victim. Stop writing lyrics about being a victim. You are powerful. All of you. And your songs are powerful.’ So that really hit home and gives you a different way to look at it. You can go, ‘Oh, I’m so oppressed!’ Or you can do something about it.” 

Check out Body Of Work below:

For more from Spitboy, find them on Bandcamp.

Photos courtesy of Spitboy, Christ Boarts Larson, and Justin Demetrick.

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